Sunday, October 25, 2015

The inquisition of Hillary Clinton results in unintended consequences for the GOP

The eleven hour long grilling of Hillary Clinton by Republican members of the House Benghazi select committee last week had some unintended consequences for the GOP.   Not only did their attack dog prosecutorial tone fail to rattle her, it gave her an opportunity to demonstrate in a very public way she had the self-control, stamina, and intelligence that a president would need.   The overt attempt by GOP committee members to trip her up with loaded questions, to get her to incriminate herself with her answers, also became additional proof of the partisan nature of the committee and did nothing to restore its credibility.    What did come out of her answer to a GOP committee member’s question is a fact that may in the long term diminish the importance of another issue dogging her, her emails on a private server.

The highly partisan dominated GOP committee began the hearings with a strike against their credibility by a whistle blowing ex staff member and statements by  two members of the House that the committee’s purpose was to hurt her candidacy.  As even committee  chair, Rep. Trey Goudy, admitted afterward, no new facts resulted.  Perhaps he meant no new facts emerged that could bring down her poll numbers.

Goudy had begun his opening case statement against her with trying to link the negatives of Benghazi to Clinton’s private emails.  He failed. What fact did emerge was to her advantage, that the decision making and communications of a Secretary of States’ office were made in staff briefings, one to one conversations, and mostly with old fashioned cables, not by emails.  This may explain why so little evidence of use of the private server has shown any impact on national security.  Only an unfinished investigation by the FBI to see there was “gross negligence” in handling classified and non-classified documents remains.          .

The GOP committee members substantiated the partisan purpose of the hearing with their attitudes and questions that were not fact seeking, but were questions prefaced and constructed to make a public case for their accusations.

 Adding to suspicions of GOP partisanship, the role of other major players had not gotten the same public exposure. Many questions and answers essential to protecting diplomats in the future are buried in written documentation, prior investigations, and hearing transcripts.
 Instead, GOP committee members were preoccupied with posing questions that explored conspiracy theories for the world to see, aimed at pinning blame on Clinton herself.

 Particularly glaring was the committee’s failure to give equal public grilling  of CIA and military  officials. Why were there intelligence failures and why was the military positioned too far away to come to the aid of a besieged ambassador?

There were other unasked pertinent questions deserving  a high profile public airing:  What happened in the State Department that fumbled the Ambassador’s request for more security?  Was underfunding truly an issue requiring prioritization?  Why was the ambassador’s visit not seen as deserving priority?   What measures has the State Department taken to reduce the possibility of a future attack against our diplomats? How and why did post-Gaddafi Libya’s democratically elected governance fail? What lessons learned can be applied to future situations when a dictator is deposed?

A version of this was published in the October 29-30, 2015

For more, visit

Polls taken a few days after the Benghazi hearings confirm the hearings helped Clinton diminish the issue of her private server emails and gave her a bump in favorablility while reducing the favorability of the committee.
In short, the GOP strategy of grilling her backfired on them.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Why military intervention does not work out; a strong warning to hawks

Fareed Zakaria on CNN Sunday, October 18, 2015, delivered a strong warning to those who think the definition of American strength , its exceptionalism, and leadership is military intervention. He reviews both the Russian experience and the US since the Eisenhower administration and the resulting disasters, humanitarian, quagmire and occupation and failure then and now as a lesson for the future.  He praises Dwight Eisenhower's wisdom for bucking public sentiment for military action.

 I strongly agree and those who are rational could agree as well because evidence is based on experience .  Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

I yield my posting this week to him.

For his excellent concise comment on the subject, go to

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The rule of secular law is the law of the land

The rule of secular law

As  a former county clerk myself, the county clerk  who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples because it violated her religious beliefs, got me thinking about the differences between a country ruled by laws that were secular, not connected with religious or spiritual matters, and a country ruled by an official state religion. The U.S. is governed by secular laws.


 That issue, secular vs religious rule,  dominated debates in  American history  among and within the colonies, but it became one of the compromises expressed in the First Amendment when the Constitution was formulated and ratified. It  forbad Congress from establishing a state religion and protected freedom to practice one’s own religion.


 Our founding fathers were influenced by  their bitter experience with persecution under the English kings who also served as the religious rulers by divine right and  the divisive practices of some colonies , such as the Puritans of Massachusetts who substituted persecution justified by one religious belief with another just as cruel.
In modern times the issue of separation of church and state has been the subject of many a US Supreme Court rulings.  Sometimes other Constitutional provisions such as the 14th Amendment that established the right of equal protection under the law seem to conflict with the First Amendment.  The Supreme Court is the arbiter that resolves those conflicts and they ruled in 2014 that equal protections trumped  laws in  those states that had passed laws motivated by religious beliefs of their majority forbidding same sex marriage.
 A key to a stable, successful democracy is a  rule of secular  law that protects minority interests.  Failure to do so has hobbled many wannabe democracies .The tension within secular states vs Islamist advocates of Sharia law , the religious laws derived from interpretations of the Koran, have played out in the Arab Spring .  In Egypt ,deposed President Mubarek’s secular law was replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sharia type laws that resulted in persecution of Christians and others, followed by  a military coup that re-established secular law.  In Turkey, a government tried to replace  the secular laws of Ataturk (founder of modern Turkey) with more Islamist ones.  The result has been many demonstrations, bombings and unrest, attempted power grabs,  and changes in leadership.  The Nobel peace prize was just awarded to a group in Tunisia who hammered out a compromise between Islamists and secularists, though the country is  still a home to many Islamic extremists.
 Most American elected and appointed officials swear on a Bible to uphold the laws of the land which are secular.      Kentucky  clerk, Kim Davis,  refused  to  issue marriage licenses to same sex couples because  she was acting because of her religious beliefs that  forbad her to do so.  Her action  resulted in jail time for contempt of court. 
Another Kentucky clerk opined : " Why take away the majority's right [just] to give the minority their rights?” Send her back to school for civics lessons.  The First and 14th amendment protects minority rights from being trampled by the majority ,  but they are not enforced under the authority of state sponsored religion but under the authority of the secular  Constitution.

Felicia Muftic served as Denver County Clerk from 1983-1991.
A version of this appeared in the  October 23, 2015

 For sources tapped for the column visit and  also visit the posting: Freedom of religion, a right so often misunderstood

 Bowman, Brad (September 2, 2015). "Defiant county clerks standing ground on gay marriage issue". The State Journal (Frankfort, KY).

Monday, October 5, 2015

The GOP's logic on the Iran deal and same sex marriage escape me

There are some public policy positions being promoted by a variety of politicians that just do not seem logical.  Often good politics trump reason, especially when they  invigorate the juices of their political bases.  Take the examples of the failed attempt in Congress to block the Iran nuclear deal and some freedom of religion arguments advanced by the GOP.
 The logical element of the Iran deal is that it will keep war from happening immediately, and maybe even in a distant future, though much can change in a decade for better or for worse.  On the other hand, failure to pass the deal would have freed all other participants to drop any sanctions and they had made that clear they would do so. Clearly sanctions by one country, the US, would not be effective in changing Iran’s behavior any more than they were against Cuba. Sanctions by the larger international community were the only leverage against Iran.  Iran could develop nuclear weapons in a few months. Past cyber  attacks, assassinations of scientists, and bombing runs caused only temporary setbacks.  With the deal, violations of sanctions will trigger automatic reinstatement of international sanctions and military action is still an option. There will be constant monitoring of nuclear sites capable of nuclear weapons production and supply lines, with some level of inspections lasting past the ten year period. 
 Opponents to the deal ginned up fear, not reason. Their argument:  Iran’s government had bad policies toward its people and was untrustworthy. The deal does not rely on trust or love. Inspections are regarded by the international community as the most stringent ever imposed on any country.  Unable to refute that, the opponents just ignored or distorted  the inspection protocols in their multi- million dollar ad campaign full of misleading statements and instead, scared the public into opposing the deal.
In preparation for the 2016 elections, a fear mongering ad is running against Colorado Democratic Senate incumbent, Michael Bennet claiming he will be responsible for a nuclear holocaust caused by his vote in favor of the Iran deal. This ad, with multi lingual countdown by children, is similar to the one Democrats used effectively against GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964 who had indicated a willingness to use nukes. It depicted a child counting daisy petals followed by a nuclear blast.  Bennet has a reasoned case to make the Iran deal would immediately make a nuclear war less likely.
Also illogical is the GOP’s freedom of religion argument that same sex marriage destroys religious freedom.  Same sex marriage is contrary to religious beliefs held by many who would like government to force others to uphold their views and step on others ’rights. In 2014 the Supreme Court ruled same sex couples must be allowed to marry nationwide regardless if state laws permit marriage only by heterosexual couples. The ruling was particularly pertinent to officials issuing marriage licenses. A county clerk was jailed when she refused to issue licenses to same sex couples because it violated her religious beliefs. She has always been free to resign or run for another office, and she is still protected by the Constitution to continue her crusade elsewhere. Noticed: the ruling did not prevent heterosexual marriage.

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi Daily News ( October 8,9, 2015

For more, visit the July 19, 2015 posting “The GOP comes out swinging against the Iran deal….    Also see the 8/2/15 blog posting: Heads up, spinners at work on the Iran deal....for a critique of the anti Iran deal ads

Felicia Muftic is a former Denver County Clerk who was sworn in to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.